Not being a Ebook Reader fan, but nonetheless an avid reader, I unwrapped the intriguing Kindle packaging with no set expectations.
The first thing that hits you on opening up the attractive matt black packaging, is that this is big business for Amazon. The presentation has been well thought out; from the ergonomics to the aesthetics.
Simplicity is the name of the game here. Our Kindle came pre-configured for the Amazon store with the LBP Amazon account info, but its really as simple as entering your username and password. You then get a WIFI setup screen, just select your WIFI network and enter your password. I connected to our main WIFI network at LBP HQ with no problems, as well as our backup connection (with a slightly temperamental router) with no issues whatsoever. The Kindle also connected to an iPhone using personal hotspot and a Blackberry.
After entering your WIFI details, you are offered the option of visiting the Amazon store. As you may already know, Amazon have the edge in terms of content, certainly with e-books. ‘Over one million books and counting’ is the strapline touted by Amazon. Not to mention it’s other content (movies, music, DVD’s etc) which you are free to browse but not download. The Kindle is purely for books and that’s it.
Finding a title is easy; just enter the author’s name or title or a combination of both and results are returned fast. Utilising a monochrome screen means that it accesses Amazon store pages quickly, with no large colour images to download. A monochrome screen does of course mean that you can’t view the colour photos regularly featured in the centre spine of many best sellers.
Books download quickly; very quickly. Our sample of Ben Elton’s ‘Stark’ was less than 3 seconds; and this was in a part of our office with a generally weak wifi signal. Once downloaded, the book opens quickly and presents you with the first page. You can scroll backwards and forwards between pages using the rocker type switches on the side of the Kindle. One set on the left and one set on the right of the device. It feels very natural using both, and you soon get used to reading and turning the pages in this way.
The Kindle uses e-ink, which as it’s name suggests, is a sort of electronic ink. The great thing is that it doesn’t require a backlight (unless in extremely poor lighting conditions), so your eyes don’t feel tired. I read the first three chapters of ‘Stark’ under the glaring, retina-burning ceiling lights of a SouthWest train, and there was no glare from the screen at all. Likewise, on arriving at home and settling down in a room with poor lighting, I was able to read without straining my eyes. However, there are plenty of accessories out there that will give you a snap on light for the Kindle if you so desire.
These devices make great presents as well as learning tools for the kids too. There is a large selection of free books on the Amazon store for kids, which is great. I downloaded ‘Stink: The Incredible Shrinking Kid’ (not free) for my 6 year old and she loved it. She didn’t complain about her eyes aching and she didn’t have any issues navigating her way around the Amazon store either.
Incidentally, you don’t need to have a credit card hooked up to your account in order to download the plethora of free books on offer, nor the sample pages. So the kids can’t rack up a huge bill when you’re not looking.
The Kindle has five buttons at the bottom of the device below the screen; a return key (which takes you back to the previous screen), a keyboard button (which activates the keyboard, in the Amazon store for example), an up/down/left/right rocker switch around a centre OK button (for navigating the Kindle Menu and the Amazon store), and at the base of the Kindle is a socket for a supplied mini USB cable (for charging) and a Power on/off switch. The unit automatically switches off after a period of inactivity to conserve battery power.
There are two left/right navigation keys on the left of the device, as well as the right. You will probably find that a combination of the two suits you for reading, and because of its lightweight form factor the Kindle is great for one handed operation.
The Kindle is light enough that you can hold it for long periods, without your hands starting to ache.
The battery on the Kindle is fantastic. I haven’t charged it since opening this morning and it still has over 50% left (it’s now almost 9pm).
If you want to read books, just read books and do nothing but read books, then the Kindle is unbeatable. It’s smart, light, ridiculously easy to use and the battery lasts ages (4 days on a full charge). And at £69 it’s a steal; everyone should have one.
Here’s the stats:
Amazon’s smallest, lightest e-reader with Wi-Fi
30% lighter than before, less than 170 grams
18% smaller body, same 6″ screen size – fits in your pocket
Most advanced E Ink display, reads like paper
Built-in Wi-Fi – Get books in 60 seconds
10% faster page turns for seamless reading
*UPDATE – I’ve now been using the Kindle for 3 days, and it’s one of my favourite gadgets ever. It doesn’t replace an iPad or a Samsung Galaxy, but it never tries to. It lets you read anytime, anywhere and isn’t a liability in terms of charging requirements. Even with heavy usage you don’t need to charge every day.